Empanelled bus crew of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) who are in dire straits after the agency discontinued their services in March 2020 are on the warpath, with most of them bereft of an alternative source of income.
Many of them were recruited over a decade ago from the Employment Exchange list and are unable to apply for new jobs since they are either in their middle age or have crossed it.
“I joined the KSRTC as a driver in 2010 and served till March 2020, after the agency cited a High Court order to discontinue our services, said T. K. Santosh, from Kolenchery.
“Being the sole breadwinner of my family, I am now finding it difficult to look after my family, including educational expenses of two children and my aged mother. Most like me have little or no savings either, since all that we got was ₹500 per duty day. On an average, a driver did no more than 13 duties each month, since we needed to take a break to sleep,” he says.
There are over 1,200 such empanelled personnel who were employed as drivers, conductors and mechanics till March 2020. “Neither the government and the management nor the trade unions are taking up our cause. We are unable to register for new jobs since we have not been served relieving orders. In this situation, the KSRTC or the government must provide us at least ₹3,000 per month for our sustenance. We must also be reinstated into the rolls of KSRTC or KSRTC-Swift once normal services resume,” he said.
Then there are others like A.V. Bindumol of Muvattupuzha and T.M. Rafeeq of Kangarapady — empanelled crew who worked for over a decade in the agency, following which their services were discontinued in March 2020. Both pleaded that the KSRTC or the government should extend urgent help to sustain their families.
State secretary of Kerala State Transport Workers’ Union (INTUC) Aliyar M. I. said empanelled workers are amongst the worst hit since they are not eligible for getting monetary relief under the government’s welfare schemes, because they were considered KSRTC employees all through. “They have been left to fend for themselves, although we submitted many memoranda to the government,” he added.
Responding to the predicament of empanelled workers, the CMD of KSRTC Biju Prabhakar said the agency, which is finding it difficult to pay the salaries of even permanent employees, is in no position to extend them any monetary help. “The best that we can do is to accommodate a few of them in KSRTC-Swift, which would be an independent entity, since the High Court directed discontinuation of their services in the KSRTC. Unfortunately, we are unable to constitute KSRTC-Swift since two unions have challenged its formation before the High Court,” he said.
Yet another probability is to appoint eligible personnel in a lorry division that has been envisaged, wherein KSRTC would be able to operate and maintain lorries of other government departments, Mr. Prabhakar added.